A project of the Afterschool Alliance

Planning a virtual event

This year our Lights On Afterschool celebrations might look a little different, but there are still plenty of ways to showcase the important role afterschool programs play in our communities in a safe, socially-distanced way. Holding a virtual event is one way to ensure that you can connect with students and families while at home. Here are some tips to help you plan the perfect virtual Lights On Afterschool event.

Get Started

Pick an activity
  • Looking for ideas for an engaging virtual event? Check out our Event Themes and Ideas page for inspiration!
  • Just like in-person events, participants are more engaged when they are a part of what is happening. Get creative with ways to make sure invited guests aren't just spectators but participants! Ask different students to present or share, hold frequent polls to gauge interest or answer questions, use breakout rooms to have smaller discussions - these are just a few ways to make sure your event is inclusive.
  • Visit our in-person event planning checklist for more ideas you can integrate into a virtual event.
Pick your virtual platform
  • Consider what features you'll need based on the event you're holding. Will you need break out rooms for groups to discuss their answers for your "afterschool trivia" game? Will you need to share your screen during a presentation? We recommend Zoom for most virtual events — an added bonus is that you can broadcast your Zoom event live on your Facebook page.
  • Promote the event on social media
  • Involve youth in planning the event, emceeing, making remarks
  • Create a special digital background for your students and staff (see how to create a Zoom background)
  • Want to play an online board game? There are many free versions of games available online - like this free version of Codenames, or these minute-to-win-it games.
    • Use Discord to create free accounts to chat and play together with small groups.
Date and time considerations
  • While commutes might not be an issue when planning a virtual event, meal time is. Unlike an in-person event where you can offer food or snacks, try your best not to plan your event when families often sit down for dinner together.
  • Planning for shorter events is also encouraged! Understanding that right now many students and family members are spending the majority of their time in front of a screen, plan for your event to be 90 minutes or less. Finding ways to be online together but doing activities off screen is also encouraged - like doing an arts and crafts tutorial!
Recruit your event team
  • Suggested roles include event chair, technology lead, media and public relations lead, and manager of VIPs and RSVPs
  • If the technology you're using is new, give the technology lead as much time as possible to familiarize themself with the platform you choose and the agenda for the virtual event.

Invitations & Sample Materials

Use digital invitations for virtual events—and be sure to personalize with information about your program, like where it’s located, how many children it serves, and the activities it provides.

A one- to two-page factsheet outlining your program can give people a sense of why your program is a key part of the community—now more than ever!

Use this sample language to invite policymakers to attend your virtual Lights On Afterschool event.

Use this template to draft letters to potential sponsors who may be interested in supporting your Lights On Afterschool event.

Create your invite list of community members and media
  • If you're hosting your event on Zoom, guests can attend the meeting without an account, but speakers will need to have their own Zoom accounts. Be clear with families so the expectations are set.
  • Don't forget to use passcodes to make sure your guests and only your guests join your virtual event.
Invite Policymakers
  • Thinking about inviting your local councilmember, mayor, or other policymaker to your event? Consider giving them a speaking role to encourage their participation and attendance.
  • Be clear about when during your event they would be asked to speak so they can plan to be on, even if they can only log on for a few minutes.
  • Use our invitation template to reach out to decision-makers in your community!
Hold a Prep Call & Rehearsal 
  • Speaker planning call - Once you have confirmed your speakers, organize a call to talk through the event and what you hope presenters will cover. Provide a short run-of-show that outlines the timing and roles of each speaker or activity. Ideally, all speakers will join one call, but you can hold separate calls with each speaker if needed.  
  • Add line on importance of doing run through to test tech, make sure speakers have tech they need, practice their presentations, etc.
Tip: Online doesn't have to be just virtual!
  • Just because your event can't be in-person doesn't mean you can't come up with activities to do at home. Planning an online game of scavenger hunt, jack-o-lantern carving contests, or cooking tutorials are just some ideas to hold an event at-home "together."
    • Consider what materials families might have at home and not have. Whenever possible, make it easy on families by sending the materials you would otherwise have if you were hosting the event in person.
    • Share a Meal - Another way to feel together while at home is sharing a meal. Perhaps you can send healthy food or snacks home with children for families to enjoy during the event!

Media & Promotion

Promote your program online
  • In addition to the ways you would promote your traditional event, there are a few additional ways to make sure your virtual event is a success online.
    • Create a Visual - Use a free account on Canva to create easy to share flyers & graphics that work great on social media.
    • Ask partners to help promote the event - Make it easy for partners and parents to share the event on their own social media by writing some sample language they can copy and paste along with your graphic. Use our social kit and graphics for inspiration! 
    • Promote Your Event Live - When the day comes, give people a link to your event or live stream that they can easily share and get more community members to watch or engage with online.
      • Live Tweeting - Consider assigning someone on your team to tweet out highlights from your event to engage parents, media, and policymakers who aren't able to attend in person. Make sure to use the #LightsOnAfterschool hashtag!

Final Logistics

  • Check room capacity - Be sure to check your room capacity while planning your event. If you expect larger numbers than your virtual room can hold, look into live-streaming your event so more folks can watch from home! Zoom makes it easy to live-stream your event on Facebook.
  • Do a final tech run-through - 48 hours before your virtual event, it is encouraged that you do a practice run through of your event to make sure you are able to address any last minute challenges or bugs you encounter. Assign team members to be a practice audience so you know what the event will look like from your guests' perspectives.
  • Record your event - Make some memories of your celebration!
    • Most virtual meeting platforms give you the option of recording your event. Use the recording to clip highlights and screenshots to use for social media, and/or send the full recording to guests, media, and policymakers so they can also be reminded of your impact.
    • Take photos of students doing activities (such as performing in a talent show, making a video or photo collage, or each pod of kids joining the Lightbulb Challenge) and share with parents and the community via Snapchat, TikTok, Instagram TV (IGTV), Facebook, and Twitter